| Stationery | My Celluloid Pen Case

Celluloid captured my heart in Japan.

Beautiful, fragile yet resilient with way of toying with light that’s verging on magical. Yet its story is brief and poignant. So much so, that the very mention of celluloid to people of my parents age and older will send them nostalgically down memory lane.

This is not just a pen case for my precious writing implements. It’s a memento of Japan’s manufacturing history and quite a bit more.

Celluloid is the world’s very 1st thermoplastic. Unlike the petrochemical derived plastics of today it is made from a natural mixture of camphor, nitrocellulose and vegetable oils so it has always been a more earth friendly material. Camphor is a tree is native to and much loved in Japan ( Totoro lives in one).  With an abundant resource of required raw materials,Japan was at one point producing 40% of the world’s celluloid products. In the aftermath of WWII, celluloid accounted for over 50% of Japan’s total export and in many ways it contributed to the country’s post-war rehabilitation. 

However, with the rise of cheaper mass produced plastics, the production of celluloid fell into decline and by 1996 the large scale production of Japanese made celluloid ended.

Today celluloid is manly used for ping-pong balls, spectacle frames, plectrums and accordion bodies. But there are a few craftsmen and small scale companies in Japan who are still devoting their skills to creating such lovely things as this pen case. Its design hasn’t changed since the 1920’s.

My pen case is precious to me. It protects the tools that I use everyday of my life. When I put it up to my window, I can see light dancing through its nuances. It looks like the skin of a koi. How fitting then that the koi symbolises perseverance and the overcoming of adversity.

>>>>> P.S. In answer to questions about similarities between lucite and Celluloid, I just wanted to say that the differences are many. Lucite is a thermoplastic and so a synthetic material where as celluloid is naturally derived. Lucite is rigid and shatterproof while Celluloid is flexible and reacts to high temperatures.

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